Being the first professional basketball club in Vietnam, Saigon Heat has been focusing on developing local talents to build a strong foundation for its squad.
A long-term foundation
Coach Matt Van Pelt said he wants to develop his team in a comprehensive and sustainable manner by training his own players instead of hiring new foreign stars each season.
Saigon Heat has invested a lot in its youth training program called Next Generation Heat and has begun to reap results in recent years with such rising stars as Vo Kim Ban, Antony Sundberg, and Hoang Tu, the coach continued.
|Coach Matt Van Pelt of Saigon Heat at the VBA Premier Bubble Games 2021. Photo: VBA
Coach Van Pelt as well as his predecessor Kevin Yurkus and the team’s leadership have been able to build a strong foundation for the team over the past years.
All players on Saigon Heat are given opportunities to shine and prove themselves on the court, he continued.
“The biggest lesson I have learned from coach Yurkus is that you have to spend a lot of time training,” Van Pelt stated.
“As a coach, you won’t have time to rest, you have to constantly work and try to think one step ahead of the opposing teams.”
|Teammates celebrate the birthday of a Saigon Heat player following a game at the VBA Premier Bubble Games 2021. Photo: VBA
Another key element of a coach is to connect with and understand each of the players, he added.
The solidarity between players who all strive for the same goal is also key to helping Saigon Heat become one of the best basketball clubs in Vietnam.
“Every player has their own important role in the team’s overall victories,” said Saigon Heat defender Le Quang. “Such an unselfish tactic encourages everyone to exert their best efforts for the interest of the team.”
“We understand each other’s play style and personalities as if we were brothers, not just teammates,” defender Tony Hoang stated.
|Saigon Heat ‘s Joshua Keyes (in red) at the VBA Premier Bubble Games 2021. Photo: VBA
Selecting the right foreign players
VBA is one of a few professional basketball tournaments in Vietnam that allow the participation of foreign athletes to improve the performance of the competitors.
At the VBA 2020 and VBA 2021, Saigon Heat brought in Joshua Keyes, a foreign player who not only helped the team play more effectively but also contributed to the improvement of his teammates.
While most foreign players tried to score as many points as possible, Keyes would focus on helping his teammates become better in each game, according to coach Van Pelt.
To further improve the skills of each player, Saigon Heat has constantly looked for opportunities to partake in all tournaments, either big or small, so that its young players can have a chance to grow, he added.